George Keen is one of the great
Keen’s cheese is made with unpasteurised milk from their own herds, hand cheddared, cloth bound and sealed with lard, and left to mature for at least ten months.
If you have your own milk, like George, you also have access to your own cream, so a few of us gathered the other day, courtesy of Slow Food Somerset, for a lesson from George in butter making. As luck would have it the stainless steel butter churn, which would have hidden the whole process from view, had broken down, so it was back to old fashioned methods. We were each handed a screw topped jar half filled with two day old cream, and invited to shake. If you try this yourself, don’t use very fresh cream – it won’t work.
There’s a lot to be said for churning your own butter in a glass jar. You can see all the various processes as they happen.
The cream thickens quite quickly and then solidifies into a lump surrounded by thin buttermilk. When you take it out of the jar it is quite granular. This is just how it should be. The next step is to wash it. You wash the butter grains in cold fresh water, which washes out the excess proteins, and then you knead the mass, adding in salt if you want some salt in your butter. Having tasted the butter with absolutely no salt in it I do think that a very little salt is a good thing for taste purposes. And it does preserve the butter.
Next you want a pair of butter hands! These wooden paddles are soaked first in hot water, which opens the grain of the wood, and then in cold water, which closes the grain. The effect is to prevent the paddles from sticking to the butter, a bit like wetting your hands before you make meat balls. You then work the butter into pats, or blocks, or rolls.
I’m filled with pride to be able to say “I made this” – my butter, made under the tuition of one of the world’s greatest dairymen, unpasteurised, golden, and all my own work!